The Dr. Nowzaradan diet plan has gained popularity since its initial exposure on TLC’s reality show, My 600-Lb. Life and is essentially a high-protein, low-carb, calorie-restrictive diet that is used mostly by morbidly obese individuals to prepare for weight loss surgery. This article will provide a thorough guide to the advantages and drawbacks of this 1200-calorie diet plan and offer a menu and tips to determine if the diet plan is a good fit for your lifestyle and weight loss journey.
Who is Dr. Now?
Dr. Nowzaradan (Dr. Now) is an Houston-based, Iranian surgeon and author who specializes in bariatric surgery. He’s especially known to provide individually-designed diet and exercise plans for patients who are considered high-risk or morbidly obese (weighing more than 600 lbs.) and considering bariatric surgery. .
Mr. Now was an early adopter of laparoscopic surgery and believes it is the best option for bariatric surgery. He often takes on patients that other surgeons see as “too risky” with his special diet plan  .
What is Dr. Nowzaradan’s Diet Plan?
Nowzaradan’s restrictive calorie diet and exercise program is custom-designed for each patient, taking factors such as pre-surgery weight, goal weight, age, gender and medical issues into consideration. However, the his diet plan typically follows three main principles represented by the acronym FAT . The meaning behind FAT and hallmarks of this diet are:
- Frequency: two-three meals each day with no snacks
- Amount: no more than 1200 calories in a day
- Type: avoid sugar, increase protein and fiber and limit fat and carbs 
While this may sound like a extreme plan, the principles frequently help individuals to reach their goals and obtain their dream weight while under his supervision.
Goal and Purpose of the Dr. Nowzaradan Diet Plan
As seen on T.V., participants of My 600-Lb. Life try Dr Nowzaradan’s diet plan determine if they’re “fit” for the procedure since the doctor requires a commitment from dieters before he can approve them for surgery.
Dr. Nowzaradan’s pre op diet is an innovative dietary approach in the medical community that has two underlying goals . The first goal is to promote preoperative weight loss prior to bariatric surgery. The second goal is to gauge the commitment level of the patients to ensure they are ready for the lifestyle change required after bariatric surgery . The second point is imperative to long lasting results and we praise the Dr. for fielding his patients commitment levels before performing such a drastic procedure.
Why Lose Weight Before Surgery?
There are varying views on the impact of pre-operative weight loss before bariatric surgery, but several studies have indicated that losing 5-10% of body weight before surgery can be beneficial to surgical outcomes .
In Dr. Now’s opinion, performing surgery on morbidly obese patients over 600 lbs can be very dangerous. That is why his low-calorie diet is designed to help people lose weight quickly and reduce the risk of complications [1,5]. The more weight loss an individual has prior to surgery, the higher their chance of post-operative survival and the more likely they will keep the weight off . However, it is recommended that individuals only attempt this diet under the supervision of a doctor or dietitian because extreme and rapid weight loss can significantly impact major functions within your body .
Dr. Now is known for his no-nonsense approach and will only perform bariatric surgery on patients who meet the necessary criteria and prove to him that they will take it seriously. Bariatric surgery is sometimes viewed as “cheating” or an “easy way out,” however it requires a high level of work and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle to be effective for long-term weight loss .
Guide on What to Eat
The two major guidelines for sticking to the Dr. Nowzaradan’s plan are to focus on small portion sizes and choose real, whole foods that are minimally processed . Your daily caloric intake should not exceed 1200 calories, and increasing the amounts of protein and fiber you consume will help you feel fuller longer and prevent snacking from meal to meal. To have the most success with rapid weight loss & dieting, you should consider eating foods such as [2,3]:
- Lean protein: poultry, fish, egg whites, and beans
- Lower-sugar fruits: berries, oranges
- Most vegetables (avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn)
- Seeds: Chia and flax seeds promote weight loss
- Non-fat dairy foods: non-fat yogurt, skim milk
- Whole-grain carbs: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta in moderation
Dr. Nowzaradan Food Group Menu
To help his patients understand what they should eat, Mr. Now breaks food down into eight groups–four food groups and four nutrient groups . While his specific recommendations differ based on age, gender, and other factors, he suggests that patients follow a similar regimen as seen below:
- 5 – 7 ounces of grains
- 3 cups of non-fat dairy
- 4 – 8 ounces of meat
- 5 – 9 servings of fruit and vegetables
- 7 – 9 teaspoons of healthy fats and oils
- 20 – 35 grams of fiber
- 2300 milligrams of salt or less.
- 0 Sugar
Be sure to read labels carefully to fully understand the ingredients and nutrients you are consuming.
Nowzaradan’s Guide on Foods to Avoid
When beginning this diet, Nowzaradan first says that patients should create a list of their favorite foods and remove anything with sugar, fat, or high in calories. It is easier to stick to your diet plan and eat less if you include some of the remaining items on your list that you enjoy. To remain below 1200 calories on Dr. Nowzaradan’s low carb, high protein diet, you should avoid the following foods [1-3]:
- High-carb or high-fat protein and meat: red meat, processed meat
- Butter, vegetable oil, olive oil
- High sugar fruits: watermelon, mango, cantaloupe, banana
- Starchy vegetables: potatoes in all forms, corn, peas
- Full-fat dairy
- Nuts and nut butter
- Sugar and desserts: candy, pastries, cookies, jellies and jams, juice and soda
- Packaged snacks: chips, crackers
- Rice and pasta
While maintaining the diet, it is also important to keep your portions small and only eat two-three times per day. To easily track your calories, it can be helpful to prepare two 600-calorie meals or three 400-calorie meals. If you avoid eating a snack between meal times, it can help your liver have time to process the food you eat.
Advantages of the Dr. Now Diet Plan
Nowzaradan’s reduced-calorie diet has many benefits, but it should be reserved for individuals who are preparing for a weight loss operation such as gastric bypass, lap band, and vertical sleeve gastrectomy.
Reduces Complications During and After Surgery
Restricting your diet to 1200 calories, reducing fat, limiting carbs, and increasing fiber are all great ways to reduce the chance of death before and after bariatric surgery . For this reason, he suggests patients who weigh over 600 lbs to follow this doctor in hopes to lose 30 pounds in just 4 weeks. And if you didn’t know by now, that’s 22 more pounds more than what’s generally considered a healthy rate of weight loss (1-2 pounds per week is usually recommended).
Following the Nowzaradan diet plan prior to weight-loss surgery can also help patients develop healthy eating habits and get used to eating smaller portions, which are beneficial habits to have post surgery .
Of course, the Dr. Now diet is customized per individual and should only be used if a doctor prescribed it. However, you can learn how to lose 70 pounds using other effective weight loss methods that aren’t going away anytime soon.
Drawbacks of the Dr Nowzaradan Diet
Because Nowzaradan’s diet is extremely restrictive, it is not sustainable and is meant for short-term use. Individuals should not follow the diet for more than two months or without the supervision of a trained professional (dietician, dr. or nutritionist). Restricting calories to 1200 or less for an extended period of time can slow down your metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn fewer calories and may have an impact on your hunger hormones . So if you’re considering eating only 500 calories a day for a month, think twice and be sure to take on dieting in a safe manner.
If not supported by lifestyle change and bariatric surgery, the drastic diet can also lead to rebound weight gain .
For those who aren’t considering surgery or are waiting to visit a doctor, there’s plenty other sustainable and less restrictive diets than can be experimented within the meantime. For example, if you have a big day such as a wedding or even a conference coming up, you may be better off trying a wedding diet to slim up in the weeks and months leading up to the event
Nowzaradan Diet Plan Lacks Some Nutrients
Due to the calorie restriction, it can also be difficult for individuals following this diet to get adequate nutrients needed for major body functions. Restrictive diets also tend to reduce the population and diversity of gut bacteria which could lead to long-term complications .
The diet is not an ideal food and exercise plan for most people so be sure to ask your doctor or dietitian if a calorie-restrictive diet is right for you.
Additionally, there is little research and data about the long-term effects of diets that prioritize excessive calorie restriction .
Most people are used to a diet that is as much as 2000 calories per day, so adjusting to such a calorie-restrictive diet can be challenging. The sample meal plan below provides you with a layout for what a typical day’s meals could look like on the Mr. Now’s diet, but is not a recommendation since something this extreme should always be discussed with a doctor.
Dr Nowzaradan Diet Menu (Sample Menu)
On this diet plan, you should focus on eating 2 – 3 meals and no snacks for the greatest weight loss. The first priority should be to include low-calorie foods and increase protein and fiber in your meal plan.
Breakfast: One egg and one egg white scrambled with peppers and spinach (use oil in moderation), turkey sausage, low-fat yogurt with chia seeds, berries, black coffee
Lunch: One slice whole-wheat bread, canned tuna, light mayo, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, unsweetened iced tea
Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, steamed broccoli, low-fat cheese, water
To maximize weight loss for morbidly obese individuals, it is important to pair a low-calorie meal plan with physical activity and exercise. According to a study at a bariatric surgery outpatient clinic called Hospital de Clínicas, patients who maintained a reasonable level of physical activity after bariatric surgery experienced more long-term positive results . According to the same study, after surgical intervention for obesity, physical activity also contributed to a lower rate of post-surgical complications and rebound weight gain .
Dr. Now Diet Plan Considerations & Tips
Until recently, it has been difficult to find specific information about the diet because there isn’t a standard strategy that applies to everyone. Dr. Nowzaradan’s exercise plans and diets are custom made for each patient and due to their extreme nature, it’s not for everyone and should only be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
If you decide this diet is a good fit for you, here are some things to consider as you get started:
- Mr. Nowzaradan’s diet is an excessively restrictive diet that is only meant for people preparing for weight-loss surgery or at risk of serious health issues due to excess weight .
- Bariatric surgery is not a miracle procedure guaranteed to produce life-long weight loss unless you establish long-term healthy eating and exercise habits.
- Before beginning the diet, purge your pantry of any foods that should be avoided during the diet .
- It can be challenging to reverse detrimental habits, but the diet can help you ensure you are committed to eating the right foods and making lifestyle changes.
- The diet requires a lot of forethought and preparation, so it would be helpful to embrace meal planning regularly.
- Dr. Now reminds all patients that steady progress is the key to success .
Is the Nowzaradan Diet Right for Me?
The Dr. Now diet should only be used in those who are very obese and with medical supervision. A 2020 Pennington Scientific Symposium revealed that intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence eating behavior significantly impact obesity . Nowzaradan’s protocol is especially beneficial for combating obesity because there is a focus on commitment to changing eating behaviors prior to surgical intervention in order to improve overall nutrition and encourage a long-term healthy lifestyle.
Findings at the aforementioned symposium also support one of the major principles of the Nowzaradan diet, which is the importance of consuming “whole” and “natural” foods rather than highly-processed items to treat obesity .
For those looking to lose a moderate amount of weight it’s probably best to follow or duplicate diets such as Medifast, Weight Watchers, or Optavia. These plans incorporate a method of social support that many studies have shown can contribute to success with weight loss .
The Long and Short of It
For individuals who need it, the Dr Nowzaradan diet can greatly improve their quality of life and possibly even save their life. It prepares people for the major changes that will need to take place in their life after having bariatric surgery and ensures that they are ready for the level of commitment required for long-term change.
This diet should not be taken lightly so if you decide to try out Nowzaradan’s restrictive calorie diet, please be sure to consult with a doctor or dietitian first. Of course, surgery and the Dr. Now diet is generally a last resort since there’s an tons of other weight loss solutions that can prove fruitful.
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